Rec leaders gather

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 1, 2010

NATCHEZ — Recreation buffs from other counties attending the Mississippi Recreation and Parks Association Conference this week joked that, if Natchez pulls off its plans to build a recreation complex, they might have to deal with some tournament competition.

The conference was Monday through Thursday at the Natchez Convention Center.

Many recreation directors were impressed with the Natchez-Adams inter-local agreement and proposed ideas presented to them about plans for recreation in Natchez.

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“It’s going to be great if (Natchez) can go about it right and pull it off,” Brookhaven Parks and Recreation Director Terry Reid said.

Reid said Brookhaven has a four-field ball field complex and a soccer field complex, which is responsible for approximately six to eight tournaments a year.

He said approximately 1,000 children came to Brookhaven for tournaments this summer, and statistically, one child generates revenue for 2.5 people when considering parents, for instance.

When tournaments come to Brookhaven, Reid the town’s hotels are so booked that out-of-towners are forced to stay in surrounding cities.

The four-field complex was built 15 years ago for $350,000.

“It has more than paid for itself,” Reid said.

Reid said one item essential for building any sort of recreation or park complex is public support.

“You’ve got to have (public support). It’s not even an option,” he said.

“We do community meetings (about recreation projects), and if nobody shows any interest, we move on to something else,”

Reid also said he would be impressed if the city and county were able to work together to fund and build a complex.

“If (Natchez) can get the county to support them, it will set an example for the rest of these (Mississippi) counties,” Reid said.

Reid said recreation also works to lure businesses by marketing to families.

“You’ll be surprised to see what it does for your city,” he said.

Oxford Park Commission Deputy Director Bubba Robinson said Oxford is having success with its new 74-acre recreation complex that was completed in 2008.

Robinson said the $9 million baseball, softball, soccer and football complex is generating as much money as they expected of it.

This year, 12 baseball tournaments, two softball tournaments and a football camp went on at the complex.

Robinson said the public has enjoyed the complex, and many have said it should have been built 20 years ago.

Robinson said the complex should pay for itself in 18 years.

“We’re ready for an expansion,” Robinson said.

The Oxford complex has six full-time staff members, and maintenance is the job of a separate department created to run the complex.

During tournaments, Oxford hotels are also filled, sending out-of-towners to surrounding counties.

Jeff Wells, athletic director at the Oxford complex, said the advantage to building a complex in Natchez would simply be more opportunities for programming.

Robinson said construction on the Oxford project took two years, but planning and discussions about funding took even longer.

From 2006 to 2008, the complex was built, but the push to get approval from all the necessary government agencies took up to three years.

Natchez-Adams Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said he learned much from the conference and took plenty of notes to reference when planning for facilities in Natchez.

He said the best piece of advice he heard was to be sure to include each subset of the community.

“One of the biggest things was don’t forget about any specific age groups, because every group has somebody with an interest in (recreation),” Hobdy said.

“Be cognizant of your target,” Hobdy repeated from his lessons from the conference.

Hobdy said the conference was also beneficial in networking with other recreation experts from around the state, who were generous in offering their assistance whenever needed.